Thursday, March 24, 2016

Andy Grove, big tech leader, passes away; Unease with his "Only the Paranoid Survive" mantra

[After a little bit of mental debate, I decided to put this post in this spiritual blog instead of my other blogs, as I think the being paranoid to survive bit deals with a human and spiritual matter.]

Intel’s Andy Grove Was Brilliant, Paranoid, and Prophetic. No Wonder Silicon Valley Reveres Him,
http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2016/03/22/andy_grove_who_led_intel_has_died_he_was_brilliant_paranoid_and_prophetic.html, dated March 22nd, 2016.

A small extract from it:
Intel’s business practices sometimes went to the edge, and perhaps over the line, of fairness. Grove’s oft-repeated mantra, later expanded into his 1996 book, Only the Paranoid Survive, was fundamental to the corporate culture.
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Ravi: I think almost everybody knows about how the personal computer (PC) revolution changed the face of computers and brought great changes in the lives of many people the world over. Most people view Microsoft as one of the great companies behind the success of the PC. But many do not know that Intel's contribution to the PC revolution on the hardware side, allowing for big cupboard size computers needing a specially cooled room to be reduced to medium suitcase sized personal computers which could be kept at home without any special cooling needs, at very affordable price, was as important a part of the PC success as was the Microsoft software part. [Laptops came later on.] Techies called it the WinTel platform, Win standing for Microsoft Windows and Tel for Intel. From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wintel, "The Wintel platform is still the dominant desktop and laptop computer architecture."

I recall attending a techie/business seminar in Mumbai in the 90s, if I recall correctly, which had some coverage of Intel's astonishing success attributed, at least to some significant extent, to Andy Grove's mantra of "Only the Paranoid Survive". I was quite disturbed by that business approach/philosophy. I felt that I did not want that kind of success as the human cost to be paid by being paranoid would be too much. The bleeding-edge tech world was not the right place for me, I felt, as I would have to give up too much of myself which would not be worth the financial success, howsoever great that might be.

Another small quote from the linked Slate.com article, "I’m also convinced the tech industry’s response to its deeply ingrained paranoia—ruthless, often predatory tactics and frequently disdainful treatment of customers—has contributed to society’s increasing cynicism."

Ravi: I think these words have some truth in them. As I got more into the software profession, I was UTTERLY HORRIFIED to see the predatory tactics of the PC software world practised by one major software company (based in the USA like most software majors).

Now Grove managed to survive Nazis and later communists in his native Hungary, and fleeing them, came to America. Perhaps he felt that he had to really be paranoid to survive and that made him to be fiercely competitive in his business management roles.

Grove also was a mentor to big names in Silicon Valley like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg.
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A USA based correspondent wrote me over email (and was OK with sharing it publicly):
Ravi - Fierce and cut-throat competition is not only in software profession, it is almost in all professions. Unfortunately.

"Survival of the Fittest" or "Only the Paranoid Survive" are the mantras of the capitalist societies. Today's majority world is living by capitalistic system. Big industrial houses or businesses are not the only ones to be labelled as capitalists. Capitalism has become an attitude, a way of life for the most. And the world is facing consequences too!
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[I thank slate.com and Wikipedia and have presumed that they will not have any objections to me sharing the above very short extracts from their websites on this post which is freely viewable by all, and does not have any financial profit motive whatsoever.]

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